Peter Skillern writes about excess regulation for farmers

FARMING IS A TOUGH BUSINESS: TFGA chief executive Peter Skillern.

FARMING IS A TOUGH BUSINESS: TFGA chief executive Peter Skillern.

By any measure farming is a tough business.

As farmers, there are a range of variables well beyond our control, variables that the majority of other businesses do not face.

Being part of a fundamentally export economy means whether you are selling cherries, livestock, or manufacturing widgets, we are all subject to the vagaries of international markets and exchange rates.

A decision made in Washington today about the application of tariffs may very well create a critical pinch point for our farm businesses tomorrow.

However, the reality is that it is the decisions made closer to home that tend to have the greatest impact.

The decisions that emanate from Canberra and Hobart are the ones that impact us the most.

While farmers deal with exchange rates, unpredictable weather, disease and pest incursions, it is the regulatory changes that often cause us the most grief.

Our influence over exchange rates and weather is limited or non-existent, our influence over governments – state and federal – who continually seek to apply more and more regulation is something that we should seek to exorcise more regularly.

One recent example of regulation gone awry is the proposal to list a eucalypt community under the Federal EPBC Act.

The concern with this proposal is that the only sector that will bear the cost will be farmers.

While farmers deal with exchange rates, unpredictable weather, disease and pest incursions, it is the regulatory changes that often cause us the most grief.

Peter Skillern

Industrial forestry will be exempt, as will Crown land.

We are told that such a listing is to meet community expectations.

While questionable, if we take that at face value then we need to ask, why the community isn’t prepared to pay for that?

Far too often farmers are told, and directed, by regulation to meet so-called community expectations, however we are never told, and it has never been suggested that the broader community is prepared to assist in meeting the costs associated with these expectations.

It is high time that the conversation turned to the fact that, while farmers must bear the costs of these regulations and expectations, their ability to produce affordable and sustainable food is significantly impacted.

The challenge for the future, unquestionably, is meeting the food requirements of a rapidly growing global population and doing so in a sustainable manner.

That goal will not be achievable unless governments and the community realise the need to create an environment that allows farmers to do what they do best, which is to grow food and fibre for the world.